This article was written by Ng Siew Cheng, my Malaysian friend, whom I met in 2009 in Kuala Lumpur. She is a Lecturer for Tourism and Business Events at a University and also a Tour Planner in KL. A Thai cuisine lover, she goes to her neighbor’s country every time she misses the mango sticky rice.
“Ms. Ng, please take a good rest during your medical leave and remember to not conduct any extreme activities and exercises. Try to relax and rest at home, and I shall see you during the next weeks when your full medical report will be ready.” This was the ‘standard’ statement given by my doctor when he prepared my discharge report.
Once I stepped outside the hospital, I was ‘welcomed’ by the smoky and polluted air of Kuala Lumpur; every year there is a dense haze coming from the burning plantations in Indonesia, our neighbor country.
After being isolated in the hospital for five days, I urgently needed to escape the city life and get some fresh air. I was desperate to find a quite place. And then it appeared in front on me: my Thai friend’s picture of this beautiful resort in the middle of the jungle surrounded by cliff mountains! The National Park of Thailand, in Khao Sok, was a place I have never seen before, even though I traveled maybe 20 times to the other Malaysia’s neighbors. Next morning I chatted with my friend and I put together everything I needed for the trip. Doctor’s recommendation can wait, I was ecstatic!
In the Surat Thani airport I was picked up by the resort staff; there, a friendly man, like most of the Thais, waited for me at the airport exit.
“One person? Only you, mam’?”
“Yes, I am alone, one person only”.
He smiled and welcomed me in his car where he served me some water and snacks. We had a one and a half hour of scenic driving with giant limestone’s and picturesque views of the incredible wild area.
Upon my arrival at the resort, the receptionist tells me she upgraded my room from Basic to Cliff View room. This is one of the reasons I love traveling to Thailand in low season – you can always get a great deal. She also reminded me about my already booked half-day trip next day while she walks me to my room. There, she passed me a raincoat: “It is raining season now, you might need it tomorrow”. Such a sweet girl, I am thinking. Everyone seems to look after me in here.
My room had a big terrace with a spectacular view over the cliff. From there I could admire the purple color sunset over the mountain, smell the fresh air coming from the green surroundings, watch the stars gazing in the sky and listen to the natural orchestra of the rainforest; It was exactly what I needed. Even though I still had some abdominal pain, I slept like a baby.
Next day, the travel agency driver picked me up at the resort. The Big Man, as he told us to call him, was not only our driver but also the tour guide and boat man. In the same group there were five more persons; immediately I clicked with a Spanish woman, Sophia, another solo traveler.
After arriving at the lake’s pier, we leave the car and embarked on a long-tail boat. Big Man’s English was poor but good enough to understand his description over the Cheow Lan Lake, also known as Rajjaprabha Dam. It was formed when a hydro-electric dam was installed flooding the landscape behind it. It is also part of the Khao Sok National Park, one of the oldest evergreen rainforest in the world.
Big Man sailed for a while and brought us someplace similar with the famous Vietnamese Halong Bay. The cliffs and limestone’s seen from our small boat seem now more real and palpable compared with those in Halong Bay that I admired from a large cruise. Watching this outstanding landscape, I am wondering why I have never seen this picture on the cover of a travel guide? How come people don’t know about this travel destination?
Suddenly, an unbelievable scene comes up, a sight that no photography would be able to catch as in reality: the blue-green water with clear reflection of the floating lake house, trees and cliffs, with clouds weaving in between the cliffs – an ambiance of absolute serenity. Sophia was even more absorbed into the moment as she jumped directly into the water to swim. The other guys from the group went kayaking on the lake and jungle trekking to explore the caves in the area. I told Big Man I am not going to join them but I’ll stay and enjoy the floating lake house while waiting for their return.
With no one around, I felt the whole place was mine. I dipped my feet into the clear water and enjoyed the playful games of monkeys as they leaped from tree to tree. I wanted to add a cold Chang Beer for an even better ambiance… but I reminded myself I’m still a patient and simply enjoyed the peaceful moment.
Later, we had a delicious lunch with freshly caught fish from the lake. Sophia showed me some pictures from their trek and even one with the giant flower Rafflesia that they discovered on the trail. It was impressive.
Just when we were about to finish the meal, It started raining. I took out my raincoat as I made myself comfortable in the boat. It was simply a perfect day. I was witnessing this majestic landscape, one of the greatest views I have ever witnessed. And there was Big Man who had everything under control; he is now taking us back to the resort, sailing slowly on the peaceful waters of the lake.